After you have mastered (successfully) the basics of clay animation it is time to get our hands dirty (no pun intended). This page will cover just a few more tips and tricks that will improve the finished product. Don't worry, it shouldn't be too bad. This page follows the same format as the "Basics" page, but with a little more to it. Some of the page headings are the same as the ones on the "Basics" page, but not to worry. Each of the categories give much more detailed information about specific aspects of each category. For more information about how the videos seen throughout this website were completed, check out the "So . . ." page.
"The Look On His Face Says It All" | Sound: Not Just Noise Anymore
Shooting The Movie | One Last Word
Preparing to do a clay animation movie may be one of the hardest parts in the entire process. Once you have your story board drawn out and completed along with your tools, the rest of the process is relatively simple. Yet, the tools that you use in your movie can prove to be very important. Now, the word "tools" doesn't necessarily mean whatever you can buy in a local art store. Tools can be whatever you want them to be. Most clay animators find new things to use with each idea. Don't feel limited as to what can be used in clay animation.
Once a character has been created and developed, that's all there is to it, right? WRONG? Anyone can 'create' a figure, but it's what you do in your movie that turns that figure into a character and brings it to life. Many different techniques may be used to do this. Try adding movement to a character, or making your character talk. Keep scrolling down to see just how to add presence, personality, and pizzazz to your character.
What exactly should a character say? Well, anything that it feels like. Animating a character to talk can be very long and boring work. There are different methods and approaches to doing this. For starters, you might just try squishing your characters lips into the position that you want it to be in for each frame. The problem with this is having to constantly resculpt the entire head (it may become disfigured) and if you mess up, you'll have to start over completely. The method found to be most useful is explained more indepthly on the "So . . ." page and is the one that is used for the movies on this website. This method involves creating different mouths for different sounds and simply substituting them in each frame. After you know what you want your character to say, try saying that same thing in real life. For instance, when trying to get the clay figure in our movie to say "Clay Animation," we spent some time saying 'c-c-c-c-c-cl-cl-cl-a-cla-clay-cl- ay-cl-ay.' This way we were able to tell what we wanted the figure's mouth to look like when he said 'clay.' This will help to make the figure's mouth look as realistic as possible when talking.
Wires? What do you mean, wires? Well, once you start moving characters around in movies, wires will tend to become a required tool. If you plan for your character to move at all, or in any way other than sliding across the floor like Gumby, then something is needed to support all of that clay. Voila! The common answer is wires. By inserting them into the actual clay (e.g. lengthwise across the arm) you will be able to position and maneuver the clay much easier. Another way of making use of wires is for holding up the clay (e.g. a foot is in the air). They are easier to edit out than a finger or some large object. For many of the shots in the movies on this website, the wires were taped to the surface we were shooting on and edited out in post-production. If a character is supposed to walk, get someone else to walk slowly across the room in front of you. Note the body position and the motion. Then, try it using the clay. An objective in clay animation (and in most types of animation) is to make the movements and overall appearance look clean, realistic, and fluid as possible. As you progress in skill, there will be less jerky movements in the clay animation film.
On the "Basics" page, sound was discussed as brief background music. This is only one aspect of sound in a clay animation movie. For instance, since the character is doing so much talking (hopefully), that's nothing more than his lips moving. There has to be a source for the voice of the character. What if your character pops open a can of soda? A sound effect would definitely fit in here, and it would add so much more to a movie. How about a dancing ballerina as a character? In this case, you may want to choreograph your character to the movie. This method is more the opposite of using special effects, because the process of using the sound is backwards. Voices are pretty easy. Record a voice into a microphone speaking the script and you're done. Work on the right voice for your character. Experiment using other people to talk, or changing the tone of your voice. Sound effects tend to be a lot of fun. Many computers and movie-editing programs already have sound effects within the program, but sound effects can easily be created on your own. Try using common household items to use sound effects.
Camera Production can be made very simple. One of the most important things in using a camera is becoming familiar with it, especially if you are using a digital camera. Many cameras have different settings for different distances from your figures, lighting, etc. Becoming familiar with these can improve your films with just a switch of a button. Another important aspect is camera angles. Many beginning animators make the mistake of shooting the entire movie from only one angle. Move around taking shots of the same frame from different positions. Integrate these shots into your final movie. Treat the camera as if you were in an actual movie. Use wide-angled shots and different techniques. Try some shots that are seen on television or in the movies.
Okay, so it's not really one last word. But it may be the most important thing about doing clay animation. JUST USE YOUR IMAGINATION!!! Okay, it sounds kind of fake, but it really does mean quite a lot. To succeed in doing clay animation, all you really need to do is be creative. Don't expect to have top-quality movies the first few times. Everything takes practice, and clay animation is not excluded from this. Develop your own styles! Try different things! In clay animation, new techniques and ideas are formed everyday. But it's up to you to find ways to make these ideas reality. Just look at the "So . . ." page, the Quicktime movies, or even the entire website. It is all proof of the saying, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." Don't be discouraged. Anything is possible.